Divali, Thanksgiving, Christmas!
It Is Us! It Is Us! It Is Us!
What a Glorious World We Live In!
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – December, 2007 – It was not too long ago that Hindus around the world celebrated Divali.
The Americans then jumped into the fray with their own celebration of Thanksgiving.
And now the whole world is set to celebrate Christmas.
Earlier, Muslims came out of the glorious month of Ramadan to celebrate Eidul Fitr and now are on their way to celebrate Eidul Adha and Hajj.
What a glorious world do we live in!
And how happy should all of us be to be part of a world in which chunks of humanity under different names and in different places and ways celebrate one good thing or another.
And what a wonderful way it is to unite a strife-torn humanity by trying to find common elements in what people do, rather than always focusing on all the things that divide and separate humanity. On all the things that people do different.
“Come to the Common Elements Among Us!”
Qur’an Invites Humanity to Unite!
Come, let us sit down together and see what things we have common among us. That is the timeless call of the Qur’an as a way to bridge the gaps that divide human beings everywhere.
Qur’an: Ta’aalaw ilaa kalimatin sawaa-im bainanaa wa bainakum!
Paraphrase: Let us coalesce around the points that we all cherish together.
Believe it or not, Divali, Thanksgiving and Christmas all show us how it is possible for Muslims to find common cause with non-Muslims. They are also opportunities and occasions for non-Muslims to begin to take a fresh look at Islam and Muslims and realize that, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, their mission on earth is not to divide and destroy humanity but to unite it and build a better world for all.
Islam Is All Good
Show me one good thing anywhere in the world, and I will show you how it coincides with something equally good or better in Islam.
That is because Islam is good. It is from a good God, in whom all good and beautiful names and attributes inhere.
As the Qur’an says: Lahul asmaa-ul husnaa.
Paraphrase: All good and beautiful names and attributes are his. They all, rightfully and legitimately and in the truest and fullest sense, belong to him.
Those good things are the common basis which should pull us together and unite us. And they do. But all too many of us, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, have trained and conditioned ourselves for too long to focus and obsess on all that is NOT common among us. On all that divides and separates us.
You Can’t Be Everything to Everybody
But there is a case for that too. There are areas of principle on which Islam – and Muslims – cannot afford to compromise.
Not due to rigidity or stubbornness, but because those are the lines that demarcate identities and determine destinies: for individuals; groups; nations; cultures; societies; as well as for what people call “religions.”
You compromise on those, and then you are no longer you. You become something else. You compromise your identity. You lose your soul.
You then become like that proverbial crow that tried to walk like a swan and ended up forgetting his own natural gait.
They say it most beautifully in India’s two beautiful languages Urdu and Hindi: Kawwa hans ke chaal chala.
Paraphrase: How a crow that tries to imitate the walk of a swan.
Or you become what they say in Urdu and Hindi: Choon choon ka murabba.
Paraphrase: A hotchpotch – totally without character or identity; everything to everyone.
Fixed Parameters Critical to
Successful Life on Earth
Life is fluidity and flexibility. Rigidity and rockiness are qualities of death and, well, rocklike states and objects. But the great paradox of life is that it is a happy confluence of both.
And the key to happy and successful living on earth is knowing where the boundaries lie. It is having a set of fixed parameters surrounded by areas of fluidity and resilience.
God sent Islam to define and delineate the boundaries of each. It came to tell and show human beings how far they could go in any particular direction without jeopardizing their or anyone else’s safety and security in this world as well as their ultimate success and well-being in the next world.
So, when those Red Zones of human safety, security and well-being, both in this and the next world, are approached, Islam sounds an alarm.
“Danger!” it warns.
“Don’t go near them!” it says.
Qur’an: Tilka hudoodullahi falaa taqrabooha!
Paraphrase: Those are boundaries set up by God, don’t go anywhere near them!
Dealing with Differences:
Agreeing to Disagree
Now then, the question is this: What do you do when two groups disagree on what is fundamentally right and wrong? When they have exhausted all their wonderful areas of commonality and arrive at a dead end?
Where do they go when they come to a point on their great big road to commonality where a huge sign says, “Road Closed”?
Like, for example, the question of the “worship” of one God vs. devotion to multiple gods.
Islam has the answer for that one too. Islam says take what is common and build on it and leave what is problematic to revisit another day.
Hear the Qur’an say it in its own words.
Qur’an: Al-laa na’buda illallah, wa laa nushrika bihi shai-aa.
Paraphrase: Let us make God the basis of our agreement such that we shall worship none but him, and we shall associate none as partner or joint-God with him, and that we shall not handover the role of master of this and the next world to anyone but God Almighty.
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